Giving to a God We Trust
he story of Ananias and Sapphira is an illustration of the disappointment that occurs when we discover that people are not always what they appear to be. It stands out in the early Christian church narrative as a unique event that raises perhaps as many questions as it answers.
Luke describes the early Christian community using the Greek word koinonía, meaning “a fellowship, a brotherhood, a communion, a partnership.” It was a community that gave careful attention to the Hellenist (or Greek) widows and the poor, a community in which the Holy Spirit was accomplishing much in a short time. Against that backdrop, the story of Ananias and Sapphira would seem to fit better in the books of Judges, Kings, or Chronicles.
In the New Testament, and particularly in the book of Acts, we find the quintessential example of true Spirit-led giving. Not just tithes and offerings, but generous philanthropic and planned giving. A true manifestation of a harmonious, committed church community.
Three Basic Stewardship Concepts
God/humanity, owner/manager, steward—these terms describe the traditional/biblical stewardship motif. However, Scripture offers us another model: Jesus Christ, steward of His Father.
The members of the Trinity relate, decide, and act in harmonious union, as we find in the Creation, for example (“Let Us … ”).1 They present to us a model of relational love. Together They are God, and individually They are God.
Scripture identifies Jesus as the very expression of the Father—“the image of the invisible God,” Paul says in Colossians,2 who became flesh to incarnate the very essence of the Father.3 Their interdependence reveals Their love, and love presupposes a focus on the other.4 As chief steward of His Father, Christ showcased His character to the universe through His sinless life and death on the cross.5 Jesus speaks about the Holy Spirit as “another Helper,”6 a divine agent who persuades us to be stewards of the gifts and abilities we have been entrusted with.7
God created us to establish with the human family a relationship of love. God claims us as His possession by virtue of His redemptive work.8 Love is the reason for God’s action9 and should be the appropriate response of humanity to God’s saving act.10 In fact, in God’s administration, love comes before duty and obedience,11 and is the only acceptable reason for giving. For although I bestow all my good to feed the poor and give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.12
Fiscal and legal regulations require that the funds we give to any public charity or enterprise be treated with rigor and discipline. And those regulations require the same for the funds we give for tithes, offerings, or as large philanthropic gifts, through trusts or wills. Because of this, many consider giving to God and His cause the same as giving a donation to any public charity of their choice. But in thinking that way, they seem to lose sight of the fact that giving to God is an act of individual worship, which strengthens our relationship with God.13
Giving calls for love, faith, and trust in God. Trust in a God who is able to calm the storm, and in a Lord who is able to bring peace to the heart in the middle of the storm. Giving requires believing that God’s promises are true, and that the giver will not lack anything. Will not lack anything because an infinite, omnipotent God is able to keep His children under His care, causing them not to miss in their daily living the funds they generously give.14 On the contrary, He has the power to make our resources go beyond the limits of reason.15
Giving builds character. It calls for the individual to organize their life and finances, and develop habits to facilitate the funds flowing freely and constantly to the place designated to receive them and distribute them. Giving is a test of faithfulness that culminates with the funds being brought to the church.16 In Testimonies, volume 9, page 247, E. G. White counsels: “The portion that God has reserved for Himself is not to be diverted to any other purpose than that which He has specified. Let none feel at liberty to retain their tithe, to use according to their own judgment. They are not to use it for themselves in an emergency, nor to apply it as they see fit, even in what they regard as the Lord’s work.” (See also Lev. 17:1-9; Deut. 12:1-8; Neh. 10:38; Eph. 3:11.)
?We are God’s stewards, entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessings of the earth and its resources. We are responsible to Him for their proper use. We acknowledge God’s ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellow men, and by returning tithes and giving offerings for the proclamation of His gospel and the support and growth of His church. Stewardship is a privilege given to us by God for nurture in love and the victory over selfishness and covetousness. The steward rejoices in the blessings that come to others as a result of his faithfulness. (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15; 1 Chron. 29:14; Haggai 1:3-11; Mal. 3:8-12; 1 Cor. 9:9-14; Matt. 23:23; 2 Cor. 8:1-15; Rom. 15:26, 27.)
Trusting in the Lord prepares us to face tribulation and death, and deepens the sense of eternity in our lives.17
Disrespect for Leaders
Let us go back to the story of Acts 5. Neither Ananias nor Sapphira seemed to have regarded leaders highly, or they would not have dared lie in an attempt to deceive them. Peter, however, guided by the Holy Spirit, knew what he needed to say and what were the correct questions to put to them. When they attempted to deceive him, the knowledge of their secret deeds was revealed to him. Peter was not responsible for their deaths, but he was the instrument to deliver to them the judgment rendered by the Holy Spirit.18
We can only hope that even today God uses humble people like Peter to provide answers in situations when He chooses to manifest His will. It behooves leaders to stay in close communion with the source of wisdom and power to be able to serve as God’s mouthpiece, use wisely the resources available to them, and respond responsibly to their constituents and to God.19
I give to God because He loves me and trusts me with His possessions. I am a steward of Jesus Christ, as He is the chief steward of God the Father. Giving prepares me for other spiritual privileges. It deepens a sense of eternity in my life.
–Juan R. Prestol
is the treasurer of the North American Division, and an associate treasurer of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
1 Gen. 1:26; cf. Matt. 3:13-17; 28:18, 19; John 10:14-18; 11:41, 42; 14:8, 9; 16:13-15.
2 Col. 1:15-17; cf. John 1:1-3.
3 John 3:16, 17; 5:30; 17:3, 23-26.
4 Wim Altink, “Six Lessons From the Trinity,” Adventist World (NAD edition), October 2005, p. 34.
5 Phil. 2:5-11; John 10:17, 18; 1 Cor. 3:21-23.
6 John 14:16, 26; Gr. Parakle¯tos (comforter). Also see 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 3:21-23.
7 John 10:27; 17:20-23; Rom. 8:14, 16, 17; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15, 17-21.
8 Isa. 40:25-31; 42:5-7; 43:1-3, 11, 15.
9 John 3:16.
10 Deut. 7:7, 8; 10:12, 13; 30:6, 15, 16, 19, 20; Matt. 22:37-29.
11 John 14:15.
12 1 Cor. 13:3.
13 See Counsels on Stewardship, p. 15.
14 Ps. 1; 91; 125:1; Isa. 26:3, 4; Mal. 3:10, 11; Phil. 4:19; 1 Peter 5:7.
15 Deut. 29:5.
16 The process of the planning, budgeting, and giving culminates with bringing the funds to the house of worship, the local congregation, which is the door to God’s storehouse (Matt. 6:33; 1 Chron. 28:12; Neh. 10:38, 39; 13:11, 12; 2 Chron. 31:4-12; Mal. 3:10). For a discussion about the storehouse concept refer to Hermes Tavera Bueno, El Alfolí Equivocad [The Mistaken Storehouse] (Santo Domingo, República Dominicana Instituto de Investigación Bíblica, 2003), Asociación Central Dominicana de los Adventistas del Séptimo Día, and to Angel M. Rodríguez, Tithing in the New Testament and the Christian Church (Silver Spring, Md.: Biblical Research Institute, 2003). Also, for information about the use of tithes, offerings, and other gifts, visit www.nadadventist.org, choose Resources, Department, Treasury. The reader may find valuable information on the NAD Stewardship Web site: www.adventiststewardship.org.
17 Eccl. 3:11.
18 Refer to the comments on Acts 5:9 in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1980), vol. 6, p 178.
19 Acts 6:1-7.